For the final production of the year, Jean-Christophe Maillot and Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo have selected a work which was first staged in Monaco in 2007 – Maillot’s interpretation of the story of Faust.
The Company’s Choreographer/Director first took an interest in the story of Faust, he who sold his soul to the devil in return for eternal youth and a life of pleasure, following a production of Gounod’s opera on this subject at the Wiesbaden theatre in the spring of 2007. With a libretto in French by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, this five-act opera was adapted from Carré’s Faust et Marguerite, a play loosely based on Part I of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s epic poem, Faust, which was in turn based on a German legend – and often considered Germany’s greatest contribution to world literature.
In Goethe’s poem, Faust makes a pact with Mephistopheles whereby he gives up his soul after his death in order to gain eternal youth, knowledge and power whilst still on earth. The opera premiered at the Lyric Theatre in Paris on the 19th of March, 1859.
Maillot dedicated his Faust to Maurice Béjart, who was fascinated by the character. J-C Maillot says that he “…. delved into the various different versions by Goethe, Marlowe and Barbier. I began by comparing them, and then eliminating the peculiarities of each of them so that in the end, I was left with the key, essential elements shared by all three”.
In the ballet, Mephistopheles, having secured Faust’s agreement to the pact, sets about enacting his plan. He arranges for the innocent Marguerite to become Faust’s mistress, she falls pregnant, but is then abandoned by Faust. Marguerite’s brother is furious with him, and because Marguerite has lost the baby, she is in prison, awaiting execution, accused of having murdered the child. Faust enlists the help of the devil to free her, but Marguerite – initially happy at their reunion – suddenly pushes Faust away, and – like an angel -rises to the heavens.
The score is Liszt’s dramatic Faust Symphony, with additional music by Bertrand Maillot. Written in 1854, with various revisions over several decades, the Symphony has the traditional four movements, each of the first three named after Goethe’s characters – Faust, Gretchen and Mephistopheles. The work was dedicated to Hector Berlioz who was instrumental in helping Liszt with various aspects of composition and orchestration.
Stage Design for this production is by Rolf Sachs, costumes are by Philippe Guillotel, lighting is by Jean-Christophe Maillot with the assistance of Jean-Pascal Alouges, video is by Gilles Papain and dramaturgy assistance by Josu Zabala.
Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Faust – with the participation of the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra and Monte-Carlo Opera – runs at the Salle des Princes, Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, from 27th to 31st December.
This article first appeared in ArtsPreview
Lead image © Marie-Laure Briane and courtesy Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo